Guest Post: Tanith of Tanith Rowan Designs

Tanith Rowan is the fantastically talented milliner behind Tanith Rowan Designs. You might have seen some of her amazing work on the heads of Jessica from Chronically Vintage and Nora of Nora Finds, and having worn the piece she sent out for her Sisterhood of the Traveling Hat, I can only hope I one day get to own one of her pieces for real. I wish I had time to complete this hat refashion before I go on my trip!

I love looking at images of vintage hats, and frequently find styles I would like to try. Sometimes, a style jumps out at me as being suited to a cheap refashion, and this hat is one of them. This is from the 1939 Chicago Mail Order Catalogue [editor's note: Oh hey!], and I found it in Decades of Hats by Sue Nightingale.

It's not a perfect copy, but if you found the right hat and scarf to use, you could get pretty darn close!

Materials & Tools:

  • 1 straw hat with a broad flat brim. The closer the crown is to having straight sides and a flat top, the better, but you can work with a round crown. The straw should be woven, not sewn strips of braid. (If the crown sides are straight up and down, a braid hat might work. You'll see why below.)
  • 1 rectangular scarf in a drapey material. You can also use fabric, but you will have to hem it. Mine is about 2 meters long and 25 centimeters wide, but this is a matter of taste.

  • 1 length of ribbon long enough to wrap around the hat crown. Alternately, more fabric. Your ribbon should have some stretch, or be able to be curved (i.e. millinery petersham ribbon). Bias binding is another alternative.

  • 1 hat elastic or comb or hat pin (optional)

  • Fabric glue (optional)

  • Sewing machine (if using fabric instead of a scarf)

  • Iron and ironing board

  • Scissors

  • Needle and thread

  • Flowers or other trim

I used a straw hat that I felt was typical of the kind you will see cheaply available at op shops (thrift/charity stores). It was as ideally suited to the project as some of the others in the pile, but I wanted to show that this refashion could be done with a standard hat.

My fabric is from the remains of this tunic top, also from an op shop, in a chiffon-type material and lovely poppy print.

The ribbon I've used is a petersham head fitting ribbon removed from another old hat.


  • Basic hand sewing skills. You basically just need the ability to attach one thing to another with needle and thread! If you can do a running stitch, you are set. 

  • If you are using fabric instead of a scarf, you will need to be able to use a sewing machine to sew a hem.


  • Remove any trims from your hat, including the head fitting ribbon from the inside, if there is one. (I had previously done this step for my hat.) If needed, give the brim a bit of an iron to make it as flat as can be. Use a pressing cloth to protect your iron.

  • Mark about 1.5 – 2 cm up the sides of the crown, all the way around.

  • Cut along these marks, as evenly as you can.
  • To mark the tip, make your first mark judging by eye how deep the crown should be. You want about 4 – 5 cm down from the top. Then measure up from your last cutting line, and use that measurement to mark this height all the way around the crown.
  • Cut along these marks evenly. You now have a brim piece and a crown piece (and a middle loop which can be discarded).
  • If your hat had a rounded crown, the new crown you have will be smaller than the opening in the brim. Don't worry! This is why woven straw is best for this project – it will squish down to fit.
  • If you are using fabric or cutting up an old garment, you will need to cut your scarf and hem it. I used the bottom edge of the top, so that one edge was hemmed already. Judge the width you like and cut. I then had a loop, so had to cut out one seam. Hem by folding under twice and sewing by machine using a straight stitch. I didn't even pin mine, as you can see, but it is up to you how careful you want to be!
  • Find the approximate middle of your scarf and place it at the centre of the crown. Where it meets one edge, sew a gathering stitch (long running stitch) across the width of the scarf. (Unless, like me, you have a seam in the middle – in which case gather at the seam so it will be hidden once the hat is assembled.)
  • Pull the gathers and sew the gathered scarf down to the edge of your hat. It should cover the middle half or so of the crown.
  • Drape the scarf across the crown and pin to the other side. You may choose to use a gathering stitch again, if your scarf is wide, but I didn't bother.
  • Sew this side to the crown.
  • Place the brim piece over the crown. Pin at the front, back, and sides, and more if desired. You will find the brim edge squishing in to meet the crown, and this will happen even more as you sew. Sew the crown to the brim, making sure not to catch the hanging scarf ends. The cut straw edge will be brittle and tend to split, and also love to catch your thread. This is just how it is, so try to be patient.
  • Warning - if your crown is rounded, this may be the most annoying part! Attaching a ribbon if you had straight sides is easy – wrap around and glue or sew in place. If you have a sloping crown, as I did, you will need to use a stretch ribbon, or curve your ribbon or bias binding. (Here is a video showing this.) Even so, it is tricky. I glued mine down to hold it in place while I stitch the top edge down. Use a small stitch on the outside and a long one on the inside to keep your stitches from showing too much. (You can also just stop at the glue if it is sitting nicely, but mine was still uneven in places.) As an alternative to the ribbon or binding, use fabric and drape it around the crown, stitching in a few places.
  • (Optional). You can leave it here and use the scarf ties to hold it on, but you might want to drape them loosely, so you could add a comb or elastic to hold the hat on. I've used an elastic, poking the metal ends through the straw (just one layer so it doesn't show on the outside).

And you are done! You could go on and trim it with flowers or whatever you like, or leave it plain like the inspiration image.

You could use this process as the basis for a lot of different refashions, playing around with the brim size and style and the crown, depending what hats you find.

Have fun refashioning!

Many thanks to Tanith for this wonderful post!